Yuma drops in best-performing cities list
Yuma lost ground in the latest Milkin Institute's Best Performing Cities Index that ranks U.S. metropolitan areas by how well they are doing at creating and sustaining jobs and economic growth.
The Best-Performing Cities index includes measures of job, wage and technology performance to rank the nation's 200 large metropolitan areas and 179 smaller metros. Unlike other “best places” rankings, it does not use quality-of-life metrics, such as commute times or housing costs. In the institute's index, employment growth is weighted most heavily due to its critical importance to community vitality. Wage and salary growth measures the quality of jobs created and sustained.
Yuma slid from No. 88 in 2011 to No. 139 for the 2012 index for the 179 small metros.
Among other small metro areas in Arizona, Flagstaff was ranked No. 123 and Prescott No. 162. Yuma's neighbor, El Centro, was ranked No. 70. Logan, Utah, retained its No. 1 rank from the previous year with a one-year growth value of 100.58, with 100 being the national average.
The downgrade for Yuma's ranking is an indication its economy is taking much longer to recover from the recession in comparison to other metropolitan areas, said Armen Bedroussian, co-author of the study for Milkin. He noted that Yuma's one-year job growth from 2010 to 2011 was valued at 97.73, more than 2 percentage points below the national average for that period.
That's likely no surprise, given that Yuma County's unemployment rate is persistently hovering at more than 27 percent.
A large factor, Bedroussian said, is the lack of a dynamic technology presence in Yuma, something that is helping other communities recover at a faster rate.
“It appears that Yuma is dependent on agriculture and the military,” he said. “And its high unemployment rate creates a heavy burden on the housing market.”
While the military is thought of as high tech, it sometimes gets included in government employment and may not show up as high tech, Bedroussian explained.
However, he said, the federal government's $400 million investment in Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in preparation for the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter may well boost Yuma's score for next year. The solar plant activity in Yuma also may help, although it typically doesn't result in a lot of permanent jobs.
“But I hope it sets the stage for something bigger,” he said. “Alternative energy is destined for somewhere.”
As for wages and salaries, Yuma fared a little better, Bedroussian observed. It had a value of 104.74 for five-year wage/salary growth between 2005 and 2010, nearly 5 percentage points above the national average.
The nation's best-performing large metro area is San Jose, the capital of Silicon Valley, which vaulted 50 spots from last year to No. 1 in 2012. San Jose's recovery has spread through the region's economy: For each job added in the tech sector, five jobs are created in other industries. For example, Apple has an estimated 34,000 employees in the metro area but is responsible for another 170,000 jobs in the region. Other larger cities with strong exposure to technological innovation scored high in the new ranking: Austin, Texas (No. 2, up from fourth place); Raleigh, N.C. (No. 3, up from No. 14); the Washington, D.C., metro (No. 5 from No. 17); and Cambridge, Mass. (No. 8 from No. 12).
Phoenix was ranked No. 122 on the large metro area's list and Tucson No. 150.
Data for all metros is available on the Institute's Best-Performing Cities interactive website at http://bestcities.milkeninstitute.org.